Pastoral Life Magazine

This review of the first edition was originally published and copyrighted in Pastoral Life Magazine, Vol. 51, No. 7-8, July/August 2002 – reprinted with permission. Reviewer is Dr. Robert L. Fastiggi, Associate Professor of Theology at Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit, MI.



Did Adam and Eve really exist? Was there really an historic fall from God’s grace? If evolution is true, how does it affect the dogma of original sin? In the face of such questions, some Catholics today believe it is an either/or situation in regard to evolution and the Bible. They do not understand that in addition to the alternatives of “young-earth scientific creationism” and “atheistic evolutionism,” there are other logical and scientific possibilities.

This study by Dr. Dennis Bonnette, chairman of the philosophy department at Niagara University, submits the various theories concerning the origin of the human species to rigorous critical analysis. It takes a philosopher like Bonnette, well trained in logic and epistemology, to examine the so-called “scientific claims” of naturalistic and atheistic evolutionism. The author also explores a number of related topics, including “the human soul’s spiritual character and divine origin,” “the question of extraterrestrial life” and “natural science and theology.”

The chief value of this book lies in its defense of the historicity of original sin. The author argues convincingly that there is nothing in science which shows that there was not or could not have been an historic fall from God’s grace by an original pair of humans (i.e. Adam and Eve) from whom we all descend. Bonnette, though, is not a biblical fundamentalist. Rather, he presents the alternatives of “theistic evolution” and “progressive creationism” as “philosophically possible and scientifically defensible.”

Although Bonnette does not discuss the statements on original sin and evolution by more recent popes such as Paul VI and John Paul II, his basic thesis harmonizes with the judgment of both Vatican II and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. While the account of the fall in Genesis 3 uses “figurative language” it nevertheless affirms a “primeval event, a deed that took place at the beginning of the history of man.” (see Catechism, # 390 and Gaudium et Spes, 13).

This study deserves a wide circulation among all those who take the Bible and original sin seriously. The philosophical aspects of the origin of the human species have not been adequately appreciated. This book is an excellent example of how reason can be used in defense of the faith.